On Thursday Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the results of the matric class of 2018.

Motshekga reported a pass rate of 78.2% for 2018, from 75.1% in 2017.

Read the minister’s full address below:

Good Evening Fellow South Africans!

Strategic direction in the basic education sector

Today, we are gathered here to announce the 2018 National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination results. We are announcing the 2018 NSC examination results on the year in which South Africa will be celebrating its 25th anniversary of political freedom and democracy.

The NSC examination results, are one of the most important barometers to evaluate progress made by Government in improving access, redress, equity, inclusivity, efficiency and the quality of teaching and learning outcomes. This, the Government has done by strategically implementing national, continental and international commitments as articulated in the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals, 2030; the African Union Continental Education Strategy for Africa, 2025; the National Development Plan, 2030; the Medium-Term Strategic Framework and the National Strategy for Learner Attainment – all of which are articulated through our Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling by 2030.

At the dawn of democracy in 1994, the topmost priority of Government, was to establish a single, unified and democratic system of education system, based on human rights. Transformative legislation and policy frameworks were developed to ensure that the radical reforms envisaged by Government are realised. The result of Government’s reforms and developments over the past 25 years, can be seen in the educational outcomes which have improved in virtually all measures. We are, without doubt improving access, redress, equity, inclusivity, efficiency and quality of our basic education system. I wish to encourage South Africans, to visit the DBE website, where the comprehensive version of this Speech can be found.

Building a solid and foundation for teaching and learning

Fellow South Africans, we should always remember at all times that if we have to further improve the outputs of the schooling system, we will have to continue to improve the fundamental quality of learning and teaching, well before Grade 12. Therefore, the success of any examination, is a reflection of the hard work put in by teachers, learners, parents, and communities of trust, not only during the year of the examination, but throughout the twelve years of schooling. Research shows that the early years of learning to read, write, and compute, translate into positive results and outcomes later in the schooling years.

Government will soon be sharing more information on the work underway for the phased-in implementation of an integrated Early Childhood Development programme under basic education; and the phasing-in of a comprehensive Information and Communication Technology programme. Following years of piloting, the Sector is ready to phase-in a national ICT programme, which will see “no fee” schools, schools in rural areas and farms, as well as special schools benefitting.

A great deal is happening to improve the early Grade literacy and numeracy skills of our children. The Read to Lead Campaign has been mobilising learners, teachers and communities around the importance of reading. The Primary School Reading Improvement Programme has been expanding in the numbers of schools that it is supporting, with quality learning materials designed to enrich classroom learning experiences in the early Grades. The Early Grade Reading Study has led to the development of a Reading Improvement Plan with clear steps to improve the support given to teachers, based on evidence of what works. The National Education Collaboration Trust has set up a National Reading Coalition to bring together, and guide all our efforts to improving reading in the nation.

At the basic education level, the modernisation of the classroom has become a phenomenon of the global society. In response to the demand of the 21st century skills, the DBE, in partnership with UNICEF, the LEGO Foundation, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), is currently implementing an initiative that focuses on the role of PLAY-based learning in improving the quality of early Grade learning, under the auspices of Power of PLAY: A Learning Tool for a Powerful Future Programme.

An International Africa PLAY Conference will be hosted in Pretoria on 25-27 February this year. Among the key objectives of the Conference, are the facilitation of an understanding and commitment of policy-makers and influencers on the important role of PLAY-based learning in preparing young children for the opportunities of the 21st century, and the achievement of sustainable development of a national and global level.

Fellow South Africans, as we report on the Grade 12 examination results, it is important to reflect on the recent cycles of regional and international assessment studies, namely, the TIMSS, the SEACMEQ, and the PIRLS, which report on the performance in lower Grades, specifically Grades 4, 5, 6 and 9.

Results of the regional and international assessment benchmark studies

At the heart of development in the schooling sector, must obviously be what learners learn. During the announcement of the 2017 NSC examination results, I outlined the improvements in the performance of South African learners – though at varying degrees, as reported by the three regional and international assessment studies. The reality is that our basic education system has entered its Age of Hope. What is critical, is to remind ourselves that every child must be viewed as a national asset.

The 2018 National Senior Certificate Examinations Results

Turning to the Grade 12 examination results, the pass rate is but one of many indicators tracking trends at this level. Government’s MTSF, which is based on the NDP, emphasises the aim of getting all young people to obtain a National Senior Certificate or an equivalent qualification; either from a school or TVET institution. The MTSF also emphasises the attainment of a National Senior Certificate, which allows for Bachelors-level studies at a university; and obtaining a mark of at least 50% in Mathematics and Physical Science. In the case of Mathematics, the 50% threshold, is the lowest threshold applied for entry into different Mathematically-oriented university programmes, such as Accounting and Economics.

Fellow South Africans, we were very happy that Umalusi, the sole authority and arbiter of standardisation, has declared the 2018 NSC examinations as “fair, valid and credible”.

Profile: Class of 2018

The Class of 2018, which is the fifth cohort to be exposed to the CAPS curriculum, has recorded the fourth highest enrolment of full-time candidates, and the highest for the part-time candidates in the history of the Basic Education system in South Africa.

The total number of candidates, who registered for the November 2018 NSC examinations was approximately 800 800, comprising about 625 000 full-time candidates and 176 000 part-time candidates. Of these candidates, approximately 512 700 full-time candidates, and 117 660 part-time candidates actually wrote all seven subjects of the 2018 NSC examinations. It is noteworthy that KwaZulu Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape registered the highest numbers of full-time and part-time candidates.

The scope and size of the 2018 NSC examinations, is massive. For instance, 147 question papers were set; 8 million question papers were printed; 7.6 million scripts were produced and delivered countrywide; about 7 000 secure examination centres were established; 65 000 invigilators, and 41 000 markers were appointed in 141 secure marking centres.

The Class of 2018 is the first to be introduced to twelve (12) new subject offerings, comprising the South African Sign Language (Home Language); as well as Civil Technologies, Mechanical Technologies, and Electrical Technologies – each with three subjects; as well as Technical Mathematics and Technical Science.

Performance of the progressed learners